An uptick in public optimism about the economy has boosted President Obama’s approval rating to 50 percent, the highest it’s been since he approved the raid that killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released on Tuesday evening.
Forty-three percent of Americans still disapprove of the job Obama is doing, which is not ideal for a president seeking a second term. But he now leads each of the Republican presidential candidates in theoretical head-to-head matchups, the poll found.
More than a third of Americans -- 34 percent -- think the economy is improving, up from 28 percent last month, although three-quarters still rate the economy as poor. And while more than four in 10 people see it stuck in place, the percentage who say it's improving is the highest it has been in nearly two years.
Public opinion has a long way to go to achieve real satisfaction with economic conditions, the poll shows. Fifty-nine percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. But the percentage that says it is on the right track rose to 35 percent, up from 29 percent a month ago and the highest in a year.
Half of Americans still disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy, but those numbers are also on the upswing. Forty-four percent approve of his handling of the economy now, up from 40 percent a month ago.
For the first time in the poll, Obama has a clear advantage over the four remaining Republican candidates for his job. When prospective voters were asked who they would vote for if the presidential election were held today, Obama edged out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 48-42 percent; former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, 49-41 percent; Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, 50-39 percent; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 54-36 percent.
The poll of 1,197 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone Feb. 8-13; 997 interviews were conducted with registered voters. The survey's margin of error is plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.